SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The Assembly on Monday rejected legislation that would make California the first state to impose a ban on single-use plastic bags, but the bill could be heard again later this week.
SB270 failed Monday on a 37-33 vote crossing party lines after an hour-long debate largely focused on a 10-cent fee grocers can charge for bags.
The bill by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, prohibits stores from carrying single-use bags as a way to encourage reusable ones. It follows about 100 cities and counties, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, that previously banned plastic bags to fight litter in parks and water.
"It is time to bring the rest of the state up to speed with this environmentally and economically sound legislation, " said Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda. "Local jurisdictions have taught us this policy works.''
But plastic bag manufacturers looking to prevent such a ban from succeeding on a statewide level have lobbied heavily against it. Similar bans in Washington and Massachusetts were considered this year but did not pass.
The measure also attracted opposition from paper bag makers because of the fee on bags that many grocers already provide for free.
"When you turn around and penalize these consumers for using a better alternative, we are creating a terrible policy for the state of California,'' said Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, a Republican from Camarillo who said lawmakers should find another approach to fighting the buildup of plastic waste in oceans and waterways.
Multiple Democratic lawmakers from the Central Valley and low-income districts withheld their votes or voted no.
"We are departing from a long history of policy around food affordability and availability," said Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced.
B270 was recently amendment to say that fees on reusable bags could only be used for providing the bags and educational programs to encourage recycling.
If it were to become law, SB270 would take effect in 2015 for larger stores and 2016 for convenience stores. It also includes $2 million for local manufacturers for worker training and assistance to shift to production of reusable bags.
Time is running out for the bill, which must pass both the Assembly and Senate before the session ends this week. Padilla says years of plastic bag bans with fees shows fears are overhyped.
"Consumers quickly adapt and the amount of ten cents paid for the paper bags is far less than all the estimates,'' he said in an interview after the vote.